Liberal Interventionism, Humanitarian Ethics, and the Responsibility to Protect

In: Global Responsibility to Protect
Alex LeveringhausUniversity of Oxford,

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This paper examines the lack of engagement between liberal political philosophers and humanitarians on the issue of humanitarian intervention. It argues that the recent emergence of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) agenda provides a great opportunity to overcome this mutual disinterest in each other’s positions. R2P, especially as formulated by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, is fairly demanding. In order to formulate an adequate response, liberals and humanitarians need to reconsider their positions. In this respect, insights provided by liberal political theory are helpful to humanitarians. Firstly, liberal reasoning offers justifications for potential restrictions of the humanitarian scope of concern in the course of halting mass atrocities. Second, liberal values indicate how humanitarians can respond to the challenges posed by post-war reconstruction. Conversely, humanitarian considerations should prompt liberals to think harder about the conduct of military intervention, as well as the material basis of successful post-atrocity reconstruction.

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